Totori has wisdom of Solomon

Of all this season's new Hyundai A-League recruits, few, if any, will be quite as driven to succeed as Wellington Phoenix attacker Benjamin Totori.

Of all this season's new Hyundai A-League recruits, few, if any, will be quite as driven to succeed as Wellington Phoenix attacker Benjamin Totori.

Despite having tried his luck in the United States with Portland Timbers and spent several seasons rattling in the goals for New Zealand ASB Premiership sides YoungHeart Manawatu and Waitakere United, the 26-year-old had returned to his native Solomon Islands earlier this year resigned to giving up on his professional football dream.

"I'd had some injuries and I'd gone home and said, 'That's enough for me now'," Totori admitted.

"I'd been away from home for a long time and I had my mind set on resting and playing in the Solomons and that was it.

"But then the World Cup qualifiers came up, I got selected and I knew Phoenix boss Ricki Herbert was coming with New Zealand, so I thought maybe I still have a chance."

And he certainly took that chance.

The World Cup qualifiers were played as part of the OFC Nations Cup held in the Solomon Islands and not content with bagging his country's equaliser in their shock draw with the All Whites during the group stage, Totori added a further two against Herbert's side in the third-place playoff.

"Straight after the group game," he recalled, "Ricki came up to me and said he might want to sign me.

"I wasn't sure it was really going to happen, but after the second game, I thought I'm definitely going there now. He asked me to come over and I signed."

But finally signing that elusive professional contract was only half the battle for Totori who freely admits that adapting to the rigours of full-time football has been tough.

"The experience has been a bit challenging at times, but I knew it would be like that before I came," he said.

"So far I've done well in training and I'm improving slowly.

"Coming straight from the Solomons where we don't do weights and these other forms of training, it was all new and that's why it's been challenging.

"But I've been working really hard to improve

"To be in this league you have to be prepared physically and you have to be quick with your feet and your mind."

The experienced international has featured in all but one of Phoenix's games this season, generally as a substitute, and he hit the headlines during last week's impressive 3-0 win at Newcastle.

Clean through on goal after rounding goalkeeper Matthew Nash, he opted to shoot from a tight angle instead of squaring the ball to Jeremy Brockie, who was unmarked, and to make matters worse, on a hat-trick.

But a chuckling Totori insisted the pitch was to blame for his howler.

"If the pitch had been smooth, I would have scored," he said.

"But it bounced and bobbled because the pitch was terrible and then it came off my foot the wrong way.

"I was pretty down after that, but that's football, eh?

"The boys made a few jokey comments in the changing rooms saying that it would win miss of the season and hopefully I'll get that award."

In terms of his role as a trailblazer for Solomon Islands football, meanwhile, Totori is only too happy to follow in the footsteps of Henry Fa'arodo, who made 11 appearances for Perth Glory during the 2005-2006 season.

And he is confident that if the right infrastructure can be put in place, his homeland has the potential to develop into a fertile recruitment ground for Hyundai A-League clubs.

"We have heaps of talented players there because kids grow up playing only soccer," he said

"We have the skills, but we need the proper facilities and proper training.

"We're not strong enough physically or mentally and we need coaches to help us in those areas.

"Without those coaches, it's hard for our players to come through."

And the likeable frontman is keen to take an active role in nurturing that natural talent himself.

"I'd like to create a football academy for young kids back home," he said. "That's my dream, to help those kids that have been less fortunate than me.

"I want to give something back in that way."